More about Erica

Parking the car in the lot behind the corner store, Erica introduced herself to the store's proprietor and bought an orange juice, hearing disappointment in his voice over the coming demolition, as it seemed sure to lose business, even if replaced with another hotel, which would definitely not happen. The arrangement was more than fair to him, exchange of undisclosed services for low addition to the monthly bills. Erica was made welcome to tend the store now and then for cash payment, but she'd stopped into a restaurant downtown and put in an application and the manager had left no room for doubt.
Back in the hotel, Erica said hi to the desk attendant and looked over the expanse of the ground floor, two stories, the rooms of the hotel on a mezzanine similar to old western hotels, the lobby having been at some point a bar and grill. A staircase along the east wall led the way up to the mezzanine along the southern wall, five single rooms. The staircase doubled up to the third story, what as the attendant told Erica was called by the architect, "the regency room," on request of the owner, an eccentric oil man.
Further talk revealed more story of the place, that it was subject to arson decades ago, leaving her unfit for public commerce, but the owner loved it so well as to leave it in the hands of the travelers, given a few ground rules which were followed to this day. The travelers given funding for materials to reinforce the arson-damaged portion of the ground floor, where three of the rooms had been at risk of collapse. The travelers reinforced the mezzanine and patched the floors of the damaged rooms, at which point the hotel passed inspection code. The owner made good on his promise to leave it in their hands. He was greatly fond of the travelers, having married a traveling fortune teller he'd met there in Austin. She had foretold in detail how his oilfield ventures would make him wealthy, given he follow a bit of her advice, which he had, and it worked.
Sadly, said the attendant, the oil man bequeathed the hotel to his heirs and they sold the property, now slated for demolition and redevelopment, likely as an office building. "Do you live here?" Erica said. Yes, the attendant said, pointing out the room at the far side from the staircase on the west end, room five, adding, "If you're a night-owl you'll meet Carol. She does the night watch. She's in room one, fast asleep." The attendant described the couple who requested computer time before she'd gone back to get her car, in room two, and two more couples who were out and about at the moment, normally back around midnight. Erica asked how come, since the building passed code, they were tearing it down, rather than converting it back into a regular hotel. The attendant speculated on the market dynamics and the neighborhood, that maybe it was a bad location for an old-style hotel, or the new development projected to be more profitable anyhow. "It was in his will to keep it available to us," he said, "but there must have been a loophole." He and Erica exchanged salutations and she made her way back up to the halo room, at the door a sign reading in perfect calligraphy, "Pull rope for the bell." She pulled the rope, heard the bell resonate behind the door. Lauren slid the porthole open and, seeing her friend, welcomed her back.

The End

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